academy awards nominees

The Croods (2013) Review | Jamie Daily

The Croods (2013)
86th Academy Awards 2014
3/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Animated Feature Film (Chris Sanders, Kirk DeMicco, Kristine Belson).
Watched August 28, 2014.

If I could suggest one thing when viewing “The Croods,” it would be to not read too much into the plot and characters and just enjoy the story for what it is.  A pre-historic cave family has their home destroyed and must set out across the unknown in search of safety and a new cave.  With the help of a slightly unwanted stranger, they discover what it is to embrace change and to face adversity together as a family, even if your family is stupid.

That synopsis might not sound too bad until you get into the grit of things.  Grug (Nicolas Cage) is the father, and he is fiercely opposed to any kind of change or outside thinking.  When his daughter Eep (Emma Stone) tests the limits and then meets an outsider named Guy (Ryan Reynolds), who is also an inventor, he does what any typical dad would do and tries to lock her in the cave.  When their home gets destroyed, everything changes and Grug reluctantly follows Guy and Eep, along with his wife Ugga (Catherine Keener), crazy Gran (Cloris Leachman), son Thunk (Clark Duke), and little one Sandy (Randy Thorn) across the unknown.  They face perilous adventures with wacky creatures and explore lands full of vivid colors.  Grug is obstinate the entire way and refuses to accept a new way of thinking.

This is where things could get weird.  The parent is refusing to see another point of view and won’t listen to his teenager.  On the other hand, the teenager thinks she knows best and is drooling over a boy.  The boy seems like the most level headed character, even though he has a sloth for a belt and he invents things like fire.  He is all about progress and moving forward and sees little value in tradition.  The dad is stuck in his ways and resists change to a fault.  He apparently doesn’t use his brain, according to the film.  The black and white representations of opposing sides of society could be that, or just a typical plot point in a children’s film.  You make the judgement call.

The story telling is predictable, albeit entertaining and funny.  There are some basic plot points, although surprisingly both parents last at least the majority of the film, whereas most films for kids feature a dead parent.  The kids have to go through some great emotional turmoil to make them understand the value of family, even when they’re being stupid, and nature continues to beat the cave people into submission.

I feel like this review came off more negative than I intended.  Like I said, the colors are fabulous, the film is entertaining and funny, and I enjoyed the animation.  I don’t know how quickly I would watch the film again because, let’s face it, it’s no Shrek, but it wasn’t the worst film of 2013, that’s for sure.

If none of the things I mentioned above bother you, and especially if you have kids, then I would recommend that you see “The Croods!”

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Death of a Shadow (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

Death of a Shadow (Dood Van Een Schaduw) (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2013
4/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Live Action Short Film (Tom Van Avermaet, Ellen De Waele).

“Death of a Shadow” is an interesting little short that escapes both time and reality.  A deceased World War I soldier, Nathan Rijckx (Matthias Schoenaerts) works for a man, stuck in a limbo between life and death, and photographs the dying to be displayed in a gallery of shadows.  He works to have a second chance at life and is motivated by a woman he met the day he was killed.   Sarah Winters (Laura Verlinden) tried to save his life.

He hates his work, but he is so close to completing it he can hardly stand it.  He peruses his options and tries to find the least repulsive death to photograph, while still trying to satisfy his employer’s taste in art and composition.  His last picture, however, proves to be very difficult and he must make a decision between his own happiness and that of the woman he is smitten with.

The film is both a period piece and something outside of reality.  It is creative and well shot, although it is a lot of story to put into a short.  The production value of the short is really astounding.  It is very artistic and emotional, however they didn’t completely match the communication of that emotion with the production design.  That is a small complaint, however, for such a well made short.

Moonrise Kingdom (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2013
4/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Writing-Original Screenplay (Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola).

“Anderson’s movies often mark out their own weirdly regressive, faintly dysfunctional space, from which the modern world has been politely excluded, and where the occupants communicate in a kind of modified, private language” (The Guardian).

“Moonrise Kingdom” is both bizarrely weird and fabulous at the same time.  Wes Anderson is well known for his unique, artistic view of the world and way of telling a story through film.  This story of two young lovebirds in a tiny island community with interesting takes on reality is no different.

Sam (Jared Gilman) is an orphan who has been with the island’s scout group for some time.  An outsider with pyrotechnic tendencies, he meets Suzy (Kara Hayward) at a church play and is immediately smitten.  They become pen pals and after much planning decide to “run away” and take a camping trip together.  Sam, after all, is an experienced scout.  Suzy, on the other hand, seems to know nothing about camping but quite a lot about music composition and interesting library books.

The adults are not absent.  On the contrary, they are deeply concerned for the well being of their charges.  They take a break from their own disfunctions to be preoccupied by the young couple’s and spend a good portion of the movie searching for the two, and then trying to keep them apart.  Suzy’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Bishop (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand) are pretty normal, including the untoward relationship between Mrs. Bishop and Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis).  Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton) and his troop are the most unique characters and other-worldly story line of the entire film.  As they search for the twelve-year-old love birds and try to bring them back to reality, a storm brews off shore that will turn the small community upside down.

Each scene and shot is picturesque.  I really enjoyed the cinematography.  It was like watching a photograph come to life.  The presentation itself was a bit awkward and unique, but that is typical of Anderson’s films.  It is all about the emotion and desire.  He makes the ordinary seem magical.

This film isn’t for everyone.  It’s a bit artistic and out there.  Its timing is even unique and takes pauses in awkward places.  There is a constant reminder that you are watching a film and it won’t allow you to get sucked in.  The scenes including the Scout Master and his troop are so out there that the absurdity is comical–in a good way.

If you are in the mood for an artistic film in which you suspend a bit of your own reality to watch the absurdity of this 1965 community, then I would definitely recommend this film.  If it doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, definitely watch something else.

Ted (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

Ted (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2013
2/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Song (“Everybody Needs a Best Friend,” Seth MacFarlane, Walter Murphy).
Watched August 8, 2014.

Guys, I am going to be completely honest.  I was dreading this movie.  It is one of the last films on my list to watch from the 85th Academy Awards.  Let’s just say that Seth MacFarlane and I do not see eye to eye on what constitutes “humor.”  By the end of the film, I wasn’t hating my life, although I felt like I had just wasted a little of it.  Let’s stop dwelling, though, and jump into the review.

The film starts brilliantly like an old classic Christmas film, complete with snow and a deep voiced narrator, although he tends to swear.  The neighborhood kids all hate John Bennett, even the bullied Jewish kid.  Everything changes when John receives a giant teddy bear on Christmas morning.  That night, he wishes that his bear was alive and that they would be best friends forever.  When morning dawns, he discovers a walking, talking bear named Ted who wants nothing more than to be BFFs.  Once John’s parents get over their shock a little, Ted becomes a national sensation, appearing all over the news and becoming famous.  But, as the film explains, just like everything that becomes famous, Ted is eventually old news, and just like that, Seth MacFarlane and his team made the situation–an alive teddy bear being an accepted member of society–believable.

We come back into their lives several years later.  John (Mark Wahlberg) is 35, has a fruitless job at a rental car agency, smokes weed whenever he can, and has been dating his ridiculously gorgeous girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis) for four years without a proposal in sight.  Ted (Seth MacFarlane) lives with them and frequently brings home hookers or has outrageous parties.  Lori is losing her patience, and it seems like Ted is at the root of their relationship woes.  After all, will a guy ever grow up if his best friend is a teddy bear?

Perhaps it is because Ted is a toy, but his humor is the most inappropriate and outrageous  out of anyone in the film.  This cruel irony supposedly makes it even more fun but again, it isn’t my cup of tea and actually makes me dislike the film more.  The characters were all right.  Watching a grown man child learn to adult (yes, it is a verb) isn’t usually this painful, but John takes an outrageously long time to figure it out.  Lori gives him a lot of leash after dating him for four years, but perhaps that’s because her other prospect is her sleazy, arrogant boss.

One thing is for sure, though–anyone who makes a walking, talking teddy bear a believable character in an every-man type of film deserves some credit.  I have had friends rave about this film.  Some people think it is the funniest thing they have ever seen.  I will say that it is outrageous, and yet its level of believability is astounding.  The acting is so-so, the humor oddly timed and inappropriate at best, and its story line is, for the most part, predictable.  I don’t even remember the song it was nominated for.  The believability is the one and only reason I gave this film two stars instead of one.

In reality, this film doesn’t truly stand up to semi-recent classics such as Knocked Up and 21 Jump Street.  It is crass, uncultured, unartistic, and really just a waste of my time.  However, if you like MacFarlane and Family Guy, Ted might be something you need to add to your watch list.

Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me) (2013) Review | Jamie Daily

Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me) (2013)
86th Academy Awards 2014
4/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Live Action Short Film (Esteban Crespo).
Watched July 30, 2014.

Aquel No Era Yo is hard to watch from start to finish.  While its execution and possible story can come off as slightly melodramatic, it turned out to be pretty powerful for me personally.

Two doctors are visiting Africa (we aren’t sure where) and find themselves at a barricade manned by child soldiers with automatic weapons.  Paula (Alejandra Lorente) and Juanjo (Gustavo Salmerón), clearly a little naive and very optimistic, almost make it through until an adult with ulterior motives shows up and decides to teach the boys a lesson.  The General (Babau Cham) is less than gracious and watches as his man teaches young boys what to do with outsiders who “kidnap kids.”

There is one negative that I found in the film, and that is its use of non-linear story telling.  It gives something huge away, which takes away from the suspense and therefore the power of the story telling.  Occasionally throughout the short we see a glimpse into the future, into a classroom where first world students are learning about child soldiers and the war culture in this particular African country.  Immediately we know that people survive, and that impacts the plot in a very negative way.

Despite this, the rest of the filming is very well done, from cinematography to acting, color grading to sound and the development of character, Aquel No Era Yo was definitely a force to be reckoned with at these Oscars.  Despite their loss, the film was very deserving of its nomination.

If you can find the time to see the powerful and well made film, I would recommend it!  Just be aware that it is very intense and doesn’t pull any punches.